Fo Guan Shan Monastery and Buddhist Museum

One of the big attractions near Kaohsiung is the Fo Guan Shan Monastery and its adjacent Buddhist Museum. The monastery was built in the 1960s.

Sometimes it’s not easy finding out how to get to slightly remote places. I looked at various guides online and tried Google Maps. There seemed to be an online consensus to go to Zouyang Station and get a bus. When I got to the station, I went to look at the buses that were departing from there. Sure enough, one of the stops had an electronic indicator, saying the next bus to the monastery was in 30 minutes. Since I’d not been to this area, I used the time to walk around.

The sign in the photo below (“kiss and ride”) was a mystery to me — and, as I went on to learn, a mystery to locals too. It is apparently an Americanism meaning the area where spouses can drop off their partners at the station with a kiss goodbye. The mystery was deepened for the Taiwanese because they are not renowned for their public displays of affection.

The monk in the photo was waiting for the same bus as me. At the monastery, I noticed quite a few monks on their mobile phones too!

The bus journey was about 45-minutes. You can get off at either the monastery or the museum. You can then get a shuttle to the other or walk. I got off at the monastery rather than the more popular museum.

The monastery site itself is a huge complex. There’s lots to see.

As I was walking around, I saw a sign to a calligraphy room. I headed to it, having become bewitched by Japanese and Chinese calligraphy during my trip. I entered the building and was greeted by a monk. He asked me if I wanted to do some calligraphy! He gave me a sheet of paper to write on with faint characters, instructions on how to do the strokes, and a calligraphy pen. I’d seen a monk practising earlier with a similar sheet and pen in another building.

I sat on one of the desks and got lost in the world of calligraphy. It was mesmerising even though I was only tracing characters. When I finished, I asked if he had another sheet I could try and he gave me a different sheet, with a smile. For the second sheet, there were no instructions, just faint characters to trace. You can see my results: the first is on the left. I think I improve on the second (right) because I was trying to be less deliberate.

When I finished, I realised that I’d spent more than half the time I had for the visit at the monastery. My time at the museum would be reduced. The shuttle was no longer running between the two sites. The walk was 15 minutes, which ate into the diminishing time I had.

Opened in 2011, the museum has a focal point: the central avenue lined by eight pagodas, leading up to a giant seated Buddha. The standing Buddha in the monastery is 36m high. The new Buddha is 108m!

The museum has forty-eight underground palaces to preserve a variety of objects. A palace will be opened every one hundred years to let future generations see these objects in the hope that aspects of our culture will be passed down.

I whizzed around the site. The museum itself has a reclining Buddha (made of Burmese white jade), which apparently has a couple of Buddha’s teeth. I didn’t see them.

Time had run out and I headed to the bus stop for the return journey. There was a 30-minute wait. I sat down in the sun-sheltered seating area.

On returning, I went to a restaurant called Bene Veggie and had this tofu mushroom dish.

Leave a Reply